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Forum, June 13: Car-free downtown Hanover makes a lot of sense

Published: 6/12/2020 10:02:01 PM
Modified: 6/12/2020 10:01:47 PM
Car-free downtown Hanover makes a lot of sense

I am writing to strongly advocate for transitioning the core of downtown Hanover into a car-free zone, or at very least a pedestrian (and possibly bicycle) optimized zone.

Like all Hanover residents, I am seeing frequent updates on permanent closings of businesses in downtown Hanover. Jim Kenyon’s column (“Talking the walk,” May 31), shows that the exodus has transitioned into free-fall with COVID-19, with Valley News business writer John Lippman counting some 20 stores lost since 2012. Mind you, this pre-dates the pandemic, and many of the stores have been replaced with investment banks and the like. The downtown is still pretty, but it is becoming harder and harder to find a reason to go there. As it stands, while people may feel the vague impulse to go downtown, when thought becomes action, they go elsewhere.

One of the silver linings of the business shutdown due to the novel coronavirus was the unplanned experiment in a pedestrian-centered downtown. When I saw it on the ground, it made sense.

Hanover is perfectly placed for this. It is already a tourist destination, and people from all over the Upper Valley and further afield, as well as residents and students, want to spend time there. If it were a car-free space, the street itself becomes the attraction. People will go there to people-watch, to eat, to stroll, just to be out in the public square. They no longer have to have a need. It would make a nice transition from the Dartmouth Green and the campus into the town, nurturing the interplay between students and the wider community. Overall, I believe it would mean increased foot traffic downtown, and therefore increase business and the vitality of the town.

Of course, there is the matter of the 50 or so parking spaces, and the traffic needing alternate routes. These are tough problems, but I have great confidence our planners can find solutions. These roadblocks are not worth exchanging a vibrant future for the current un-promising trend, which shows no signs of stopping.

GRETCHEN STOKES

Hanover

Apartment project is out of place in downtown Lebanon

Lebanon citizens, imagine the change in character toward Colburn Park from Hanover Street if Jolin Salazar-Kish’s apartment building is built behind the library and post office at 8-10 and 14 Bank St. A four-story building, ground-level parking and three upper floors of apartments, 55 feet tall, taller than AVA Gallery’s historic building. The first impression of downtown would be an out-of-place apartment building towering over the post office and library.

The structure that would be seen by traffic, visitors to the Opera House, the mall, its pedestrians, restaurant diners and those enjoying Coburn Park, all year round. Based on the scale and design of adjacent buildings, the project is out of character and unified streetscape. It is not harmonious with the neighborhood and adjacent properties. The building proposal does not provide adequate open space for greenery and air because it is built out excessively and is exceedingly close to the library, so much so that two waivers have been requested for Sections 6.2 B and D of the city’s site plan review regulations, both of which should certainly be denied.

Additional traffic of 50-plus cars, especially so close to Colburn Park and the crosswalks alongside the library, is a street and sidewalk safety concern. Added congestion can create hazardous conditions for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians — including seniors, those with disabilities, and children — who frequent Colburn Park, the library and AVA Gallery. A traffic study should be required by the Planning Board.

This is on the agenda for the Lebanon Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m., available online. Lend your voice.

EDITH PHYFE

Lebanon

Lebanon apartment proposal should be defeated

On Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m., the Lebanon Planning Board will continue the hearing on the proposal for 8-10 and 14 Bank St. There have been ongoing hearings since November 2019, with some cancellations due to insufficient information provided by the developer, Jolin Salazar-Kish, and some delays due to inadequate time because of the awkwardness of Microsoft Teams, the online alternative to a true democratic public hearing.

The proposal would increase by threefold the number of apartments on this Bank Street site. Its height of 55 feet would be taller than the library and taller than the post office and visible from Colburn Park.

It is inappropriate to the historic neighborhood of downtown Lebanon and would affect the surrounding area.

But more important, the developer has requested three waivers on this project — lighting, landscaping and fire engine access. The city’s subdivision regulations require that, “The Board may only grant a waiver or modification of these Regulations if the Board finds by majority vote that: A. Strict conformity would pose an unnecessary hardship to the Applicant and waiver would not be contrary to the spirit and intent of the regulations. ...”

As this property is owned by Jolin Salazar-Kish, and as this project has been defined and planned by the developer, Jolin Salazar-Kish, any hardship has been self-imposed. Therefore, if the zoning requirements cannot be met without waivers, the project needs to be redefined by the owner-developer.

The city should not be expected to grant waivers to alleviate the inadequacies of the developer’s proposal.

Sign in at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at LebanonNH.gov/Live to hear the decision-making process. The board does take notice of audience numbers. Your virtual presence is important and your input is essential.

You may also email the Planning Board at Planning@LebanonNH.gov. For information, you may call 603-448-1457.

As individuals we may not be visible, but the Bank Street neighborhood is. We must make our concerns heard. This project must be defeated.

MARY ANN MASTRO

Lebanon

Vote for experience for Hanover board

In Hanover we are fortunate to have both Peter Christie and Bill Geraghty running for reelection to the Selectboard. The town has difficult roads ahead in these times of seriously reduced revenue at both the local and state level due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Christie and Geraghty have lived in Hanover for more than 30 years, so they understand the wants and needs of Hanover citizens.

Christie has guided the board as chair for several years, watching over budgets to ensure there is value in every buck spent. His business experience with local companies and the nonprofit Hanover Improvement Society has been invaluable to the town in crafting budgets we can afford.

Geraghty likewise is no rookie. He is a human resources professional, having worked with Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. His insight has also helped local nonprofits like Vital Communities and the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council hire effective leadership. Vital Communities recently named him “Volunteer of the Year” for 2019,

Both are much-needed assets for the town. They understand how to prioritize the services that support our citizens. That will be a must in the next few years so tax dollars are not wasted and Hanover remains a desirable place to live.

Two other Hanover residents — Dalia Rodriguez Caspeta, a former Dartmouth student, and Kristina Wolff, a Dartmouth researcher — are opposing them. They have been leaders in promoting “welcoming ordinances” in the region. They are miffed that the Hanover Selectboard passed such an ordinance with a clause added by the town counsel, who was concerned that the original wording could conflict with state or federal law. Having been a Selectboard member in the past, I understand you should heed town counsel. Our citizens’ tax dollars support this advice.

A few years ago, Dartmouth students rallied to vote in one of their fellow students as Grafton County treasurer, and that proved not to be a prudent decision. We can’t allow this mistake to be repeated.

Bottom line: Vote for proven leadership, and not for one-issue candidates with little relative experience.

DAVE CIOFFI

Etna

Andru Volinsky will be New Hampshire’s finest governor

I ask you to support Andru Volinsky for New Hampshire governor in the Democratic primary on Sept. 8. I felt lucky to have worked closely with him on the Claremont school funding case when I was chairman of the Claremont School Board. His extensive experience as a lawyer defending folks who have been given the death penalty, and fighting for fair education funding, is exactly the knowledge, passion and experience we need in the governor’s office.

Funding education here is, unfortunately, based primarily upon the property tax. Claremont and other so-called property-poor towns still struggle with providing an adequate education at an affordable tax rate — to the point where Stevens High School lost accreditation for a time in 1990 despite the city having the some of the highest property tax rates. The Claremont lawsuit resulted in a court decree that education was a fundamental right under the state constitution.

Volinsky’s ability to assemble the Claremont legal team, and another team that has held more than 70 forums on education funding in the last couple of years, shows his ability to organize and educate on a budget. With few resources to pay for representation, major firms declined the invitation to participate. As lead lawyer, Volinsky provided support, guidance and leadership to us for more than two decades. Never once was there a requirement for payment of legal fees. After clearing several legal hurdles, they fought off many efforts, led by Republicans and Democrats, to amend the state constitution to render the education clause meaningless. The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union awarded Volinsky its prestigious Bill of Rights Award, but he wouldn’t take it unless all the volunteer lawyers also received the award.

We must elect Andru Volinsky to fulfill the promise of the Claremont decision and to realize fair school funding and property taxes. His enduring and selfless commitment to the children and taxpayers of our state exemplifies his character. If elected, I believe he will become one of New Hampshire’s finest governors. I strongly urge you to vote for him on Sept. 8 in the Democratic primary.

TOM CONNAIR

Claremont




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